This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Transitioning out of the military and back into civilian life can be pretty overwhelming — and no one should have to brave this rocky terrain alone.

DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a nonprofit charity that is committed to keeping the promise made to our nation’s heroes: Their sacrifices would be met with gratitude and support.


One of the ways in which DAV offers its support is empowering service members and providing them with opportunities for success in the workforce. DAV recognizes how valuable service members are to society and knows how to connect them to employers in such a competitive job market.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans
DAV provides free transportation to VA medical facilities for injured and ill veterans.
(DAV photo)

Not only does the organization act as a resource for employment opportunities, but it also assists in obtaining the health care benefits that veterans and their families deserve.

“DAV assists veterans with more than 250,000 benefit claims annually. In 2017, DAV helped secure more than $4 billion in new and retroactive benefits to care for veterans, their families and survivors. DAV employs over 260 national service officers who are ready to review your medical records, help you establish your disability rating, set up health care benefits, and connect with services that support your civilian life,” said Navy veteran and We Are The Mighty host August Dannehl.

Beyond just helping veterans directly, DAV also focuses on educating the public about all of the sacrifices made by our service members and the the support needed for them to comfortably ease back into civilian life.

“DAV works on Capitol Hill as a highly motivated, knowledgeable and respected advocate for veterans,” continued Dannehl.

Check out the video below for five ways that DAV will aid your transition out of the military:

We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with DAV, the leader in lifetime support for veterans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are US troops overpaid?

A new study on the military’s pay and compensation system asks a surprising question: Are troops getting paid too much?

Service members have typically earned about 70% of the salaries for civilians with similar skill sets, when factoring in their housing and allowances to offset food costs. That’s the level of compensation researchers found the military would need to offer to recruit and retain the right quality and quantity of personnel, according to a new report from RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank.

But troops’ compensation has jumped beyond that 70th percentile mark for both officers and enlisted troops, according to RAND. Over the course of the 2000s, military pay relative to civilian pay “increased substantially,” the report’s author wrote.


Now that enlisted troops are earning closer to 90% of what their civilian counterparts make, and officers about 83%, she says it’s “raising the question of whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay.”

The report, which Military Times first wrote about, looks at how the military’s pay system could be improved to support recruitment, retention and performance. Beth Asch, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, doesn’t make a determination about whether troops are overpaid, but rather recommends the levels be assessed.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leland White)

“Given that military pay is above the 70th percentile benchmark and has been for some time, the important question is whether this benchmark is still relevant or whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay,” Asch wrote.

In addition to their pay, troops also live on base at no cost or receive a non-taxable housing allowance if they reside off post. That amount is determined by pay grade, geographic location and family size. Active-duty troops may also draw stipends to offset food costs.

Troops are also eligible for military-provided health care, but those benefits aren’t factored into the military compensation totals referenced in this study. There are other benefits and advantages, too, that may draw people to the military that are not factored into the calculation, including skills training, guaranteed employment on multi-year contracts and free post-secondary education through the post-9/11 GI Bill, among others.

Of course, military service also comes with unique challenges and risks — including deployments, mandatory moves and far less employment flexibility than the civilian world offers.

As military pay improved, so did the quality of troops, Asch said — that is, in all the services but the Army.

“The reason why the Army did not increase recruit aptitude as military pay rose relative to civilian pay is an open question,” she wrote.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

One possibility, Asch wrote, was that the introduction of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill cut out the Army’s ability to provide education benefit “kickers” to recruits entering selected occupations. Since all recruits got access to post-9/11 education benefits, the Army might have struggled to attract some high-quality prospects, she said.

Aside from recruiting, Asch discusses how military pay affects retention and performance. Rather than simply relying on step increases when troops pick up new rank, Asch says a more flexible system could incentivize hard work.

“The primary source of flexibility and efficiency in the military compensation system turns out to be only a small fraction of cash compensation,” RAND’s key findings state. “Special and incentive pays are not as efficient as they could be in providing incentives for retention and performance.”

The think tank recommends improving how incentive and special pays are handled to “increase flexibility and efficiency.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the top issues facing military families this election

Every four years, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make our voices heard. While elections are always important, this year feels particularly critical. A global pandemic. Heightened racial tensions. Upholding or repealing Supreme Court decisions. New and old military adversaries. Economic impact… the list goes on. While military families are concerned with the macro issues facing the country, they’re also incredibly concerned about the “micro -” those issues that many Americans can’t understand because they don’t live it – things like military spouse employment, PCSing and base housing. In just a few weeks, Americans will determine our next commander in chief.

To better understand the issues paramount to our military families, WATM spoke with Military Family Advisory Network’s Executive Director, Shannon Razsadin, to talk about the results of MFAN’s 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey.

Here are 6 of the top issues facing military families this election:


Have questions about voting? Please visit Iwillvote.com or text ACCESS to 43367

Mental Health Care

The need for and reliance on mental health care was a common thread throughout the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey. However, the greatest obstacle to accessing mental health care was the ability to get appointments. Those who left military service within the past 10 years were more likely to have accessed mental health care for themselves or members of their families. The more recently they left service, the more likely they were to have accessed mental health care. About 14.6% of respondents said they had accessed mental health crisis resources for themselves or their families. They expressed a need for emergency mental health care for the following reasons: specific mental health diagnoses; suicidal ideations and attempts; and feelings of stress, grief, and hopelessness. They also described difficulty receiving care, such as long wait times and less attentive medical personnel. When asked if participants themselves had thoughts of suicide in the past two years, one in eight respondents to this question responded affirmatively.

Finances

Most respondents, 77%, said they have debt. The amount of emergency savings varied significantly depending on demographics: 27.4% of currently serving military family respondents said they have less than 0 in emergency savings, while 49.2% of veteran family respondents (those without a military pension) and 22.2% of military retiree family respondents (those with a military pension) reported having less than 0. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) said they do not have a practical or viable plan for seeking assistance in a financial emergency.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas/Released)

Moving

Moves are expensive for military families, and they are causing long-term financial strain for some. On average, families are losing about ,000 per move in out-of-pocket costs and losses and damage to their household goods. The average unreimbursed out-of-pocket expense during a move was id=”listicle-2648395695″,913, and the average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was ,920. The majority of respondents, 68.2%, said they experienced loss or damage during their most recent moves. Respondents said the moving support they need the most is financial.

Housing

Choosing a place to live is an essential process during a move, and the choice can affect families’ lives for the course of their tours. Exploring military families’ housing choices and experiences has been a perennial topic in MFAN’s support programming surveys. Between the 2017 survey and the 2019 survey, MFAN fielded a study on the state of privatized housing that was a catalyst to an overhaul of the system, a budget increase, and the Tenant Bill of Rights. The current research showed that concerns about privatized housing still linger, making it the number one reason families choose to live on the economy. Those who choose military housing do so for financial reasons and because of base amenities. Among the respondents living in military housing, those in lower enlisted ranks were more likely to have negative satisfaction rates, and the least satisfied respondents were those ranked E4 to E6. There was a very clearly statistically significant relationship with those ranked E4 to E6—they were more likely than any other group to rate their experiences as very negative across all areas of satisfaction rates measured.

Employment and Entrepreneurship

MFAN has explored military family employment needs and transition experiences in every support programming survey. Many of the responses have not changed. For example, in 2013, military spouses said they needed more assistance, specifically for spouses trying to build and maintain careers. In 2017, respondents said their job search experiences were generally negative, and they said they had difficulties with employer bias, location obstacles, child care, and unsuccessful searching. These themes emerged again this year.

Active duty military spouses are still struggling to find employment. Respondents said that the demands of military life, being the primary caretaker to children and needing flexible schedules, are obstacles to finding gainful employment. They are looking for remote and portable work that will help them build lasting careers. They were more likely than any other demographic group to have given up trying to find work. Meanwhile, those who had transitioned from service told a very different story. Veterans and retirees said their greatest obstacle is an employer who is willing to hire them. They would like assistance preparing for interviews and marketing themselves effectively with polished resumes.

Both groups placed a priority on assistance that would help them find open positions, and they have not been able to receive support. Nearly one-third of respondents said they can’t find effective support, and an additional 22.8% said they needed more information about available resources. 05 Active duty military spouses were statistically more likely than other demographics to consider entrepreneurship. Of those who do not currently have a business, 33% said they would consider starting one. However, entrepreneurial spouses of active duty service members reported low earnings, with 70.5% earning ,000 or less and 53.2% making ,000 or less. The most common reasons entrepreneurs chose for building their own businesses were flexible hours and to balance work and family life.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Austen Adriaens/Released)

Child care and education

Child care and school-related support are the top two supports that military families with children wish they had. Child care priorities change based on the age of children; however, respondents with children ages 0 to 12 agreed that hourly care, both in-home and outside of the home, was a top priority. Those with children younger than 5 years old prioritized full-time child care, while after-school care was a priority for those with children between the ages of 6 to 12.

In alignment with their top priority for care they seek, almost two-thirds (64.1%) of actively serving military family respondents said they had to forego a medical appointment due to lack of child care in the past two years. When asked to identify helpful educational support programming for military children, 40.5% of respondents could not think of any that they were aware of or used. The top missing educational supports included special needs support; learning support, such as tutoring and personalized support to fill learning gaps; and transition support to aid military-related adjustment.

Razsadin said:
In the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, military families shared with us the issues that are the greatest challenges to them. They told us that they have difficulty accessing health care appointments. That they need additional assistance as caregivers. That mental health care is critical, but difficult to access. They shared that many of them experience food insecurity. And that many feel lonely and disconnected from their communities. They disclosed that military moves are expensive and cause long-term financial strain. And that putting aside emergency savings is difficult. They talked to us about difficulties finding child care. And how hard it can be to secure (and keep) employment.

In many different areas, military families trusted us with their struggles and shared what makes military life difficult sometimes. And MFAN is committed to moving the needle on those critical areas they’ve identified. But Election Day is an opportunity for all military families to directly use their voices to address the issues that are most important to them. To speak up about what matters to them. And to vote so their voices are counted.

The people and issues military families vote for are up to them. That military families vote means our election results reflect the beautiful diversity of our force.

To learn more about President Trump’s stance on military issues, visit: https://veterans.donaldjtrump.com/issues

To learn more about Vice President Biden’s stance on military issues, visit: https://joebiden.com/militaryfamilies/#

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 veteran entrepreneurs you need to check out this Veterans Day

Anyone who has served in the military for more than a day can tell you about all the times they were given minimal to no guidance before going out to execute a mission. Whether it was supervising the extra duty privates on police call, or heading out on a no-notice mission with nothing more than a name and an eight-digit grid, many have had to go forward and just “make it happen.”


This is also why almost all veterans have a little bit of entrepreneur in them — and the Small Business Administration has the stats to back that up: There are over 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses in the U.S., and they employ more than 5 million people, generate annual revenue north of 1 trillion dollars, and pay an annual payroll of 195 billion dollars.

But some of these veteran entrepreneurs are making waves and innovating in a way that we can’t help but respect. This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran small business owners that we think you should really be paying attention to — make sure you check them out!

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Dale King, left, pitching Doc Spartan on Shark Tank.

(Doc Spartan)

Dale King, Doc Spartan

If you’re a fan of Shark Tank, maybe you remember that veteran that came on the show in Season 8 sporting a beautiful beard and a pair of freedom panties. Apparently, Ol’ Glory gracing his thighs did the trick, because Dale “Doc Spartan” King walked away with a deal with shark Robert Herjavec for his line of ointments made from essential oils.

That deal changed the game for Dale, an Iraq combat veteran and former Army intelligence officer, and his business partner Renee. Within a week of the show airing, they processed over 4,000 orders! They still manufacture, label, and ship all of their products from small-town Portsmouth, Ohio, where they even have programs in place to give back to the community.

So, just to summarize here, we’ve got a GWOT combat vet who wears short shorts and sells quality products that he makes right here in America — what’s not to love?

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Marjorie Eastman, left, showing off her Bicycle Deck of Cards.

(Marjorie Eastman)

Marjorie Eastman, Bicycle Deck of Cards

Marjorie Eastman served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer for ten years, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan — but don’t worry, she started off enlisted! These days, she’s an award-winning author (her book is actually on the reading list for the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Center of Excellence) and veterans advocate who has recently taken on a new mission: playing cards.

She is the creator of the 2019 Bicycle Collector’s Item: the Post 9/11 Deck of 52. This limited-edition collectible from the infamous playing card company shines a spotlight on 52 post 9/11 businesses and charities that have been launched by the military community. If this sounds like a familiar concept, you’re not wrong: it’s a spin-off of the 2003 “Most Wanted” cards issued to service members during the invasion of Iraq.

Eastman is “flipping the script” on that concept in order to “bring awareness and highlight the post 9/11 military community as a positive force in American culture and economy.” We can’t wait!

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Bert Kuntz, right, with Bison Union, showing off their merch.

(Bison Union)

Bert Kuntz, Bison Union

You may recognize him from his time as a cadre member on History Channel’s “The Selection”, but before that, Bert Kuntz served a career as a green beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces, going around the world on behalf of his nation to “free the oppressed” … or in some cases, oppress some bad guys. But that was a different life.

These days, Kuntz runs the rancher-oriented Bison Union Company up in Sheridan, Wyoming, with his wife Candace and their four dogs. As he puts it, “[I] traded my cool-guy guns and Green Beret for Muck Boots and flannels.”

Bison Union might just be one of the most authentic brands out there. Sure, they sell t-shirts and coffee, not unlike a myriad of other vet-owned companies these days, but there’s something about the way they do it … the heart behind it, that caught our eye. They encourage their followers to enjoy breakfast, work hard, and generally, “Be the bison.” Their shirts feature art that makes us nostalgic for simpler times, and their custom hand-made bison leather cowboy boots set them apart as a company that truly cares about a quality product.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Panelists at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, held in Orlando, Florida.

(Military Influencer Conference)

Curtez Riggs, Military Influencer Conference

Curtez D. Riggs grew up in Flint, Michigan, where he had three options after high school: School, the streets, or the military. He chose the U.S. Army, where he recently retired as a career recruiter.

The nice thing about spending time as a recruiter? It allows you to hone your “people” skills, as well as learning and testing the leading marketing, social media, and business practices of our generation. Curtez leveraged those skills to found the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event he started in 2016 that connects business executives and brands with influencers in the military community.

The conference is usually held in Washington, D.C., but will now be moving to a different region of the country each year. And with eight different tracks for attendees, there’s something for everyone:

  • “Going Live” – Podcasters and Video
  • Real Estate
  • Founders and Innovators
  • Social Impact
  • Content Creators
  • Empower – Milspouse Track
  • Workshops
  • Mighty Talks

Keep an eye out for the 2020 conference, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas, from September 23-26.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Uncanna founder Coby Cochran, former Army Ranger.

(Uncanna)

Coby Cochran, UnCanna

Coby Cochran is a 10 year veteran of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the founder of what we think might be the most well-known veteran-led CBD oil company in the game: Uncanna.

Cochran has only been in business since his departure from the military in 2018, but has grown the company steadily and organically to the point where it is now widely recognized as one of the most trusted brands for veteran wellness. And that was no accident: Cochran himself used CBD to get himself off of over 13 prescription medications while in the military, and now ensures the quality of his product.

According to the Uncanna website, “We have direct oversight of our vertically integrated operations, from seed to sale resulting in exceptional quality control and low prices. Every batch is third-party lab tested, with full panel labs, guaranteeing safety, purity, and potency.”

We’re excited about the business and mission Cochran has taken on, and are looking forward to what he may be able to do to further healthier ways for veterans to cope with their injuries.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This innovative treatment for veterans doesn’t involve drugs

More than 20 veterans die by suicide every day in America. This number does not include the loss of first responders, caregivers, or their family members. Due to the lack of effective treatment for mental health issues developed from traumatic experiences, self-medicating, isolation and violence have plagued a generation of heroes.


The Boulder Crest Retreat, a privately funded organization, uses an innovative approach to treating mental health issues in veterans, their families and first responders, without the use of drugs. Treating symptoms derived from mental health issues has become big business in America, especially amongst the Armed Forces. Medicating symptoms of PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues only create new, and possibly, worse issues like self-medicating, leading to addiction.
This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Courtesy of Boulder Crest Retreat.

America’s service members are exposed to numerous levels of trauma when they go to war. Upon their return home, they may experience feelings of paranoia, anger, guilt and sadness. Expected to function normally, many of them indulge in unhealthy coping habits to appear ordinary. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, during Vietnam, 15 out of every 100 veterans were diagnosed with PTSD, this number later increased to 30 per 100 in more recent studies. In the Gulf War, 12 out of every 100 veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. Now, in OIF and OEF, the numbers have continued to rise and are anywhere between 11 to 20 diagnosed in any given year. With the number of veterans seeking treatment for PTSD growing rapidly, the costs have become unmanageable for VAs across the country. They have partnered with non-profits and other state agencies to help fill the financial void for treatment.

Chairman, and Co-Founder of Boulder Crest Kenneth Falke, spoke about his personal journey to creating a place of peace for Veterans and first responders. He visited top psychiatrists from a few of the best universities in America, including Harvard. He was in search of a way to help relieve the stigma of mental illness. On this journey, he met Dr. Richard Tedeschi. Dr. Tedeschi has studied the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on individuals and families for many years. He now teaches post-traumatic growth and how the traumatic experiences people face can create a positive response over time.

With the incorporation of methods taught by Dr. Tedeschi, Falke was able to offer a comprehensive curriculum to people who’d before, only been treated with medical intervention. “We need to normalize mental health issues,” Falke insisted. Boulder Crest does just that. The program began five years ago with the help of philanthropic funding. Falke said, “At some point in time, we all suffer.” He’s right. Nearly every person on the planet has experienced some form of trauma in their lives. With the help of Boulder Crest, people can feel safe and normal. Instead of treating symptoms, Boulder Crest teaches wellness to their clients, with a focus on mind, body, spirit, and finance. There is a program specifically for family members, couples, and caregivers. The family path program also teaches family members how to live a mentally healthy life. This program has proven to be more effective than symptom reduction alone. The Warrior Path program is an 18-month program with a required seven-day, in-residence stay for all clients. Male and females are housed separately throughout the duration of the program.

The Boulder Crest Retreat has two locations; Virginia and Arizona. Sitting on acres of grasslands, Boulder Crest offers a desirable serene ambiance best for rest and relaxation. Each location houses about 10 males and two females per year. With the ever-increasing need for services, Boulder Crest Retreat hopes to offer its program to more individuals in the coming years. The organization also offers activities outside of formal instruction such as; Archery, Equine therapy, the labyrinth, and so much more.

Boulder Crest Retreat is free to combat veterans (honorably discharged), their families, and first responders. Potential clients do not need a mental health diagnosis to be considered for the program. This retreat is a highly sought-after program. Wait times can be up to six months, depending on location. Proven to be three to five-times more successful than medical intervention alone, this program has changed how PTSD is treated.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Courtesy of Boulder Crest Retreat.

How you can help

Because programs like Boulder Crest are funded through the community, they rely on crowdsourced funds to operate. There are ways you can get involved that will empower you to want to do more for America’s veterans and first responders. By attending events, donating, and volunteering, you can help more Veterans get the treatment they need. If you are a college student, applying to be an intern at Boulder Crest Retreat, not only helps them, but it helps you too.

If you are a veteran or first responder and have experienced Post Traumatic Stress and could use some encouragement and guidance, contact Boulder Crest. Your now doesn’t have to be your forever. Change paths and begin the wellness journey you deserve.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US, UK, and Israeli F-35s join forces in Exercise Tri-Lightning

F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft from the U.S, United Kingdom, and Israel participated in Exercise Tri-Lightning over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, June 25, 2019.

Exercise Tri-Lightning was a one-day defensive counter air exercise involving friendly and adversary aircraft from the three participating countries and consisted of active and passive air defense operations.

This exercise is a demonstration of the interoperability between the U.S., U.K., and Israel using the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35I respectively.


“We build capacity with our strategic partners to harness our air component’s capabilities and skills,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. “The transatlantic strategic relationship between the U.S. and our allies and partners has been forged over the past seven decades and is built on a foundation of shared values, experience and vision.”

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

A U.S. Air Force pilot from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron enters the cockpit of a F-35A Lightning II before Exercise Tri-Lightning June 25, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The U.S. Air Force F-35As flew from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, the Royal Air Force F-35Bs flew from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, and the Israeli Air Force F-35Is flew from Nevatim Air Base, Israel.

“Tri-Lightning was an exercise which had been planned for months and it provided an outstanding opportunity for the squadron to operate and learn from our fellow F-35 community,” said U.K. Wing Commander John Butcher, Squadron 617 commanding officer. “In addition it allowed us to share and gain valuable experience that we will be able to exploit during future training and potentially operational deployments, whether embedded on the Queen Elizabeth or from overseas air bases.”

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

An F-35A Lightning II from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis the runway at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, before Exercise Tri-Lightning June 25, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The F-35s from the three nations played as primary friendly, or blue, force players in this exercise while a variety of other aircraft played the aggressor roles, simulating realistic combat situations between the advanced F-35s and previous generation fighters.

“The exercise today reflects the close cooperation between the participating nations, said Brig. Gen. Amnon Ein-Dar, Israel Chief of Air Staff. “This training opportunity between Israel, the U.S. and Britain, strengthens shared capabilities and overall cooperation amongst allies.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part ten

Any time in life that you do something, you tend to forget the bad and remember the good. I remembered the good. I wasn’t sure I wanted to remember the bad.

For a long time, I talked to a bunch of my peers in the Special Forces community that had made the trip back to Vietnam. They wanted to go back and see what it, see what it was like for whatever reason. Everybody has a personal reason that they want to do it.

I never found a reason because I’ve always had this whole thing in my mind, when I have a traumatic situation – I’ve got a box I put it in my head and I just put it away. After a while, I decided that it was probably time to take some of those back out, and so I said yes going back to Vietnam.


Surprisingly to me, it provided closure to a circle that I didn’t know was open. It was an interesting experience. It was a cathartic experience. It was an experience that closed that loop for me that had been open because I chose not to close it before.

I didn’t know that I needed to do that.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans
This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans
This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

I’ve been back to Vietnam and I would recommend to anyone who has ever been there in a combat role, go back and look at it. Don’t be afraid of your past. Address it and deal with it.

Make your experience count.

Richard Rice
5th Special Forces Group
US Army 1966-94
Senior Advisor, GORUCK

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Motor Pool Mondays are more important than troops realize

Every Monday morning in the United States Army, companies gather around their battalion motor pool to conduct maintenance on their vehicles. On paper, the NCOs have the drivers of each and every vehicle perform a PMCS, or preventive maintenance checks and services, to find any deficiencies in their Humvee or LMTV. In reality, the lower-enlisted often just pop open the hood, check to see if it has windshield-wiper fluid, and sit inside to “test” the air conditioning.

Not to rat anyone out or anything — because basically everyone with the rank of specialist does it — but there’s a legitimate reason the chain of command keeps it on the schedule each week, and it’s not to kill time until the gut truck arrives.


This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

It’s then on the mechanics to handle the serious problems. And trust me, mechanics are rarely sitting on their asses waiting for new vehicles to fix. They’ve got a lot of actual issues to worry about.

The biggest reason why the troops need to conduct a PMCS is to help the mechanics in the unit determine which vehicles need repairs. A platoon of mechanics can’t honestly be expected to monitor and address each and every fault across a 200-plus vehicle motor pool. Sharing the responsibility among all troops in the battalion means that more attention can be given to the problems that need them.

If there is a deficiency found within a vehicle, then it can be brought to the mechanics. If it’s something simple, like low fluid levels, the mechanics can just give the troops the tools they need to handle the minor things.

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

If it’s leaking, well, at least let the mechanic know before you make a made dash for the gut truck.

(Meme via Vet Humor)

Say a vehicle does eventually break down (which it will — thank the lowest bidder), the mechanics are the ones taking the ass-chewing. Sure, whoever was assigned that vehicle may catch a little crap, but the the mechanic is also taking their lashing — all because someone else skimmed through the checklist and said it was “fine.” So, if you don’t want to blue falcon your fellow soldier, do your part.

Having a vehicle deadline is terrible — but having a vehicle break down in the middle of the road is much worse. If you want to be certain that the vehicle is operational, you should probably give it a test drive around the motor pool to check the engine and brakes. If you can’t take it out for a spin, there are a number of major issues that you can see just by opening the hood and kicking the tires.

Even if you’re strongly opposed to putting in extra effort, the two costliest defects can be found just by looking around the vehicle. If you’re going to sham, at least check to see if there are any fluids leaking or if the tires are filled.

MIGHTY CULTURE

One of the world’s first energy drinks was actually radioactive

There are a lot of ways to get your day started, give yourself and early-evening boost, or even just shake off “that 2:30 feeling.” Maybe sticking to coffee or B-vitamins, proven effective over hundreds of years, would be best. Given the history of revitalizing energy drinks, you might be getting more than your money’s worth.


This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

But Pepsi should have paid us to drink Josta.

Anyone who’s served in the military for at least twenty minutes after basic training discovered fairly quickly that American troops love certain things – and many of those things are legal stimulants. Anything from preworkout to dip to, of course, energy drinks. And everything from Monster to Rip-Its is what probably sustains half of the U.S. military force around the world (don’t check on those numbers, that’s just what it seems like).

Things like guarana, taurine, mentira, and yerba mate are all so common in energy drinks nowadays that we barely even think about them. We think about the ingredients of energy drinks so little that I made up one of those ingredients and it’s unlikely anyone would have checked on it. Even in the early days of these newfangled beverages, people seemed more concerned with flavor and the consequences of mixing them with alcohol than anything else.

But it turns out blindly accepting any drink as safe is foolish. That goes double for energy drinks.

Energy drinks always seem to be about catching the latest fad, “unleashing the power” of guarana, or cherries, or green tea, or ketones, or radium, or BCAA or – wait what?

Radium: the radioactive isotope that had all the world in a rage. In the early 20th Century, radium was hailed as a miracle, and its unique elemental properties could be seen with the naked eye. It seemed like everyone was in love with radium’s pretty blue glow. No one knew it was more radioactive than uranium, however, and no one understood just how dangerous that was. For nearly 30 years, radium could be found in a surprising array of products from fertilizers to cigarettes to energy drinks.

One of those was a beverage called Radithor – certified radioactive water.

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Radithor was giving people cancer before Red Bull gave them wings.

Radithor was a solution of radioactive radium salts and distilled water, advertising itself as “perpetual sunshine,” and a “cure for the living dead.” Its creator charged the modern-day equivalent of for every bottle and claimed it could cure impotence and mend broken bones, which would be ironic for one Radithor drinker, Pittsburgh businessman Eben Byers.

Byers began taking the drink to help heal a broken arm but continued drinking it long after it was “necessary.” His habit was soon as many as three bottles of the stuff every day. It was this habit, of course, that killed him. The radium deposited in his new bone tissue and, after a few years, was pretty much a part of his skeleton. Holes soon formed in his skull and his jaw fell off. Even though Byers had to be buried in a lead-lined coffin, his death led to the end of the radium-based health craze.

It would be decades before another energy drink craze hit the streets, this time based on simple B-vitamins. Stick to the safe stuff.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to be more resilient in a crisis

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, exhausted parents are trying to juggle work, joblessness, rambunctious children, the emotional needs of spouses, the safety of aging parents, and fear of infection from a virus that can ravage the lungs, leaving its victims sick for weeks at a time. While the war metaphor is often tossed about carelessly — a virus is not a living lifeform, let alone an “enemy” — to parallel the mental impact of this time to soldiers at war is useful.

The sense of fear and stress many are experiencing now is familiar for many families of military service members, as well as those who help them through crises. Faced with separation, dangerous deployments, and untimely deaths, parents and children can cope by practicing a resilient mindset. “We serve families who experience a loss, and put on resilience retreats for children, siblings, spouses, and others who have lost a service member. We are helping them learn to stay health in the face of grief and loss, ” says Mia Bartoletti, the clinical psychologist for the Navy SEAL Foundation and an expert on helping families navigate crises. Bartoletti acknowledges that the same process can help families navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.


As Bartoletti frames it, resilience is a practice of acknowledging “normal reactions to extraordinary circumstances.” This means working to strengthen the attributes that make one “resilient” including hardiness, personal competence, tolerance of negative affect, acceptance of change, personal control, and spirituality, according to a review in PTSD Research Quarterly, a publication by the National Center for PTSD. These traits are “like a muscle,” says Mary Alvord, psychologist and the founder of Resilience Across Borders, a nonprofit program that teaches resilience to children, adolescents, and young adults in schools. “You just keep working it out and you can build it.”

Whether you’re a healthcare worker on the frontlines or a stay-at-home parent, having a strong reaction to the pandemic is to be expected. Bartoletti divides these reactions into three categories: Intrusive reactions, avoidance and withdrawal reactions, and physical arousal reactions. Intrusive reactions involve memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks that take you back to the psychologically traumatizing situation after the fact. Avoidance and withdrawal can happen during and after a distressing event, causing you to repress emotions and even avoid people and places. Physical arousal reactions involve changes in the body itself, including trouble sleeping, irritable outbursts, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance.

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All of these reactions are normal, as long as they remain acute. Are you dreaming about Genghis Khan stealing your wallet, or breaking into a co-workers house to steal their toilet paper? Those vivid, COVID dreams are an acute intrusive reaction. Are you finding the need to shut yourself in a room and cry? That’s acute withdrawal. Do you find the news about COVID-19 in your area rockets up your heartbeat and blood pressure? That’s an acute physiological reaction. “I think that anyone can be experiencing these things, depending on your own reaction to this pandemic situation, these are common reactions,” says Bartoletti. “We expect to see more of these in this time frame.”

What is not normal is when the acute reaction morphs into a long-term psychological problems.

If these symptoms persist, acute stress in the moment can morph into post-traumatic stress after the fact. That can mean intense physiological feelings of stress, avoidance and withdrawal behavior, or intrusive flashbacks that impede normal social and emotional functioning for days, weeks, or months even after the pandemic subsides.

How does one prevent this all from going down? As with so many things, it starts with communicating those reactions, grappling with them and forming them into verbal thoughts. “If you don’t acknowledge your emotional state, that’s a risk and puts you in jeopardy for adverse lasting consequences,” says Bartolleti. “If you engage in narrative sharing open and effective communication with kids and other selective resilience skills — these are mechanisms of resilience. We can strategically set these mechanisms in motion to enhance individual and family resilient adjustment during this time.”

In many ways, parents and children can practice resilience in similar ways—through dialogue, social connection, and focusing on self-care and controlling what they can and letting go of what they can’t. Of course, parents also act as aids and models for their children, helping their kids let go of negative thoughts, providing warmth and support, and helping them connect with friends while getting outside enough. Under non-pandemic circumstances, Alvord and her colleagues have found that the presence of a caring adult in a child’s life can really help that child overcome stressful or traumatic circumstances. In a pandemic, which affects everyone, parents need to remember to take care of themselves, too.

To foster resilience in kids, the first step is talking it out. “Dialogue is really healthy for kids and teens for actual brain development,” Bartoletti says. “Having conversations about workplace safety and hazards is a healthy thing.” It’s good to gauge what your children are thinking and experiencing, as well as explaining to them your role in this situation. You can set the record straight on anything they have misunderstood. You can offer calm and reassurance while explaining the actionable steps you are taking to cope with the situation. You can model a problem-solving mindset to help your children as they figure out how to manage their emotions.

For both children and parents, social connection will be crucial for staying emotionally healthy through this time, says Alvord. While we may be physically distant, we should still be socially connected. For parents of children old enough to have friends and social groups, this will mean helping those children connect with their friends via phone or video chat. If your children are older, it may mean encouraging and allowing time and space for your teen to spend time with their friends online. For parents, make time to stay connected to your normal group of friends and family. And if you don’t have a parent support group already, it’s a good idea to seek one out so you can share tips and tricks and commiserate about parenting in lockdown. And of course, take the time to connect as a family and make the most of being stuck together.

Self-care really is essential to overall well-being. Alvord recommends trying to get plenty of sleep and taking a break to be by yourself, even if that means getting in your car to get away from everyone in the house. Physical activity and getting outside helps too, says Alvord. Bartoletti cautions that you can overdo it on the exercise, however, and that becomes its own form of avoidance. Being resilient, “really means getting in tune with your own internal landscape,” she says.

Finally, Alvord says resilience means letting go of the things you can’t control and focusing on the things that you can. Taking initiative in one’s life is one of the primary characteristics of resilience, Alvord wrote in a 2005 study published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. “Depression is hopelessness and helplessness and so resilience is the opposite,” she says. “No, you’re not helpless, you do have control over many aspects of your life.” For example, Alvord’s neighbors recently went out and bought a cheap pool for their backyard. If pools can’t open this summer, they have their own to keep their five children occupied. Recognizing you have agency in this situation — that’s resilience. “It’s action-oriented, as opposed to sitting back and letting things happen,” she says.

“Our mindset in this timeframe matters in terms of brain health and how we react in this experience,” says Bartoletti. Our bodies are primed with hormones to react to stressful situations. “We need to practice a mindset of challenging that at times,” she says.

Research shows it is possible to come out of a traumatic experience even stronger than before. And Bartoletti’s research in military families shows that these coping skills, taken together, can help families “become more cohesive and supportive and more resilient in the face of adversity.” Some days are still going to be challenging, and there will certainly be moments of grief and stress. But if parents and kids alike start to stretch and work that resilience muscle, they can get through this together.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

a service member feeds a dolphin

I was a platoon commander with reserve UDT-22 (Underwater Demolition Team 22) in Little Creek, Virginia in June of 1980. I had been promoted to lieutenant (SEAL) following a previous platoon commander tour with UDT-11. The current platoon had 21 men including my assistant platoon commander and chief petty officer.

We formed the platoon into squads of seven men each; a senior NCO or officer was in charge of each squad. We trained for everything daily. Diving, free fall, and static line parachuting, demolition, beach surveys, shooting, rappelling, and surf work with boats kept us busy. A lot of what we trained to do was carry out common tasks, but we were testing new ideas regularly. The fast rope rappelling method to insert from hovering helicopters was new and fun. The IBS (Inflatable Boat Small) “rubber duck drop” had been perfected recently allowing us to jump our rubber boats with motors from aircraft at night. We were innovators and loving it.

A new task came our way when we were asked to plan a mission to attack the USS Lexington (CV-16) moored pier side in Pensacola, Florida. She was a World War II-vintage Essex Class aircraft carrier that would serve until her decommissioning in 1991. But for now, she was going to be guarded by the famed, and then-classified, dolphins that had been trained to detect or attack swimmers in the water. No one had ever successfully evaded them.

The bottlenose dolphins were outfitted with devices on their heads that could “kill” a swimmer when they slammed into them.  The training devices were not dangerous, but the idea of a large mammal swimming out of the dark and bumping aggressively into our wet-suited bodies was downright fearsome. We were expected to die as all others had done in the past. We were to be cannon fodder for the training element that ran this special force of water attack mammals.

There were no previous after-action reports that we could learn from, as all before had failed. Past platoons had tried launching from every direction around the target at once in the hope that one pair might make it in successfully, but this was the dolphins’ backyard and they were very fast and capable. So we began to brainstorm methods that might work. Our solutions focused on what we thought would keep us undetected by one of the most advanced sonar systems in the world — the dolphin.

One pair decided to try paddling on surfboards covered entirely with seaweed in order to look like floating trash. This was appealing to the swimmers as a dolphin attack might just hit the boards instead of their tender underbellies. The other swim pairs decided to make their approach in the rolling surf zone with fins and masks only. No scuba systems had ever worked as the bubbles were too easy to detect. Additionally, the quieter pure oxygen Dragger scuba systems, which produced no bubbles, had likewise already failed since they produced a detectable clicking sound upon inhalation and exhalation. We would also all need to be carrying the magnetic limpet mines that we would use to sink the carrier.

Our window of attack was to be from sunset to dawn. We chose a 0200 attack time in the hope of catching the boat handlers tired and off guard. Another factor that made the event more interesting was that all night the beach would be patrolled by roving guards with night vision scopes and beach capable vehicles. We could not get out of the water undetected. At 0200 we used our motorized launch craft to simulate putting multiple dive pairs in at various places around the target. Our boats had been cruising the area at a safe distance for a few hours, with stops and starts, to confuse the dolphin handlers. During that time, we could hear them giving whistle commands to the dolphins. Our real launches occurred close to shore.Read Next: The US Navy’s Deadly MK6 Attack Dolphin Program

As the seaweed-covered surfboard pair used their fins to move very slowly toward the target, just outside the breaking surf they passed a channel marker pole in the water. Undetected atop the pole was a large pelican. As the pair passed close by, the startled pelican launched noisily in the air and the already very nervous paddlers, fearing a sudden underwater attack, both screamed involuntarily and could be heard easily by all. They did not make it much further before a dolphin suddenly surfaced and squeaked a warning to the waiting handlers who zoomed in and threw simulated grenades at the embarrassed, and now eliminated, attackers. Now they knew we were attacking and one of our pairs was gone.

I was in the surf zone concentrating on staying in the froth of the breaking waves. I could hear engine noises as boat-borne handlers zoomed around. Our planning had included two essential concepts: First, we believed that the crashing surf would mask our presence by interfering with the dolphins’ sonar. (They were reported to always avoid breaking surf.) Second, if we could remain undetected by the beach patrols in the fluffy blackness of the rolling surf, we could then get to, and under, the barnacle-covered pier pilings and work our way slowly to the carrier. There were three long piers that jutted out into the harbor to which other boats and craft could tie up. We had been told that the dolphins would not come under the piers and risk their soft skin on the barnacles. We were counting on that.

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K-Dog, a bottle-nose dolphin belonging to Commander Task Unit (CTU) 55.4.3, leaps out of the water in front of Sgt. Andrew Garrett while training near the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) in the Persian Gulf. Attached to the dolphin’s pectoral fin is a “pinger” device that allows the handler to keep track of the dolphin when out of sight.

The swim was exhausting as the surf tried to dash us repeatedly against the shallow bottom while we traversed over 1,000 yards to the pier area. One pair made it safely to the first pier and whispered to each other that perhaps they could save some time and energy by scooting across the open area between piers. They heard no area boats so took a chance by quietly and quickly swimming underwater across the short 30-yard distance between piers. Bad choice. They just managed to cover 20 yards when the dolphins hit them both. Two pairs down.

The two other pairs, including me and my swim buddy, stuck to the plan. We worked under the piers slowly toward the shore, across the gap under the pilings, and up along the next one until we made it past all three piers to the bow of the huge looming carrier. There were guards and vehicles moving above us, but we were invisible in the dark filthy waters under the piers. The carrier sat quietly with a draft of 35-feet. The seawater intakes had been shut down for the exercise, and the ship was entirely on shore power and water.

Four of us made it to the ship and, as briefed, dove down about 20 feet, planted our limpet mines on the metal hull, pulled the time-delayed fuses, and made it back safely under the pier. Separately, and quietly, we retraced our paths back along the pilings and worked back to the nearby surf zone. Once again, we stayed in the rolling, exhausting, noisy surf zone and swam slowly to our extraction point. It took over an hour but we were able to signal, undetected, for pickup by our launch vessels.

The crew was all smiles when it picked us up. Our limpet mines had detonated after the 30-minute time delay producing heavy red smoke that was seen by the pier patrols. Mission accomplished. One carrier sunk or severely damaged.

To this day the dolphin handlers swear we must have cheated!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top 7 troops you’ll always want to have your back

There’s an old saying in the military: There are three people that you always want to have on your good side: the cooks, the medics, and whoever happens to be repeating this tired, old saying.

Despite the fact that it’s a cliche, there’s a nugget of truth in there. Every single troop plays an important role in this crazy mechanism we call the military — but some roles more important than others. Regardless of whether they’re cool with you, they should be doing their job. Still, there’s no denying that having a key ally within certain roles in the unit will net you certain perks.

These are the 7 guys you’ll want on your good side.


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Cooks also have a mentality of not giving a f*ck about giving their buddies special treatment in line. They’ll just stare at the other guy who just got two slices of bacon and not budge.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Cooks

This one is a no-brainer. Having a buddy on the inside of the mess hall means that you won’t have to awkwardly sweet talk them to get that extra piece of bacon in the morning.

And it gets even better. At the end of their shifts, there’s almost always large-ass trays of uneaten, good food left over. The rules say that they should turn it in for compost or recycle it into a dish for the next meal, but oftentimes, the cooks just take it home — you can get in on that feast.

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It’s also their job to deal with the most disgusting parts of the human body, so you know they’re a good time.

(U.S. Army)

Medics

Outside of the obvious — you want these guys to have your back in combat — medics are also going to help you out stateside when you eventually get around to going to the aid station.

Now, we’re not going to pretend like this doesn’t venture into a morally gray area, but when you’re hammered drunk on the weekend and you’re partying with your medic or corpsman, they’ll have some IVs on standby in case your chain of command decides to surprise you with a 12-mile ruck march the next morning. And there’s no better hangover cure.

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“Oh no, It looks like the unit only ordered 3 of these swords. Oh well.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Supply

One of the first and last signatures you’ll need in the unit is from supply. Just how smoothly those final moments go may just hinge on how cool you’ve been with them.

No one does “off the books” quite like supply. They’re all masters at pulling the it-must-have-fallen-off-the-truck maneuver to slide things across to their bros. This basically means that if you’re missing something from the CIF checklist, they could just “happen” to find one that “somehow” had its serial number scratched off. What luck!

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The commander may be the head of the unit, but the training room is the neck, pointing them wherever they want.

(U.S. Army)

Training room clerks

Most training room clerks like to tell themselves that there’s some kind of method to their madness, but there isn’t. The inbox gets shuffled around so many times at the training room’s discretion that it’s kind of a misnomer to even call it a “system.”

That paperwork usually gets done at exactly the rate and order of when the training room gets around to it. Be a dick to them and you’ll find your stuff at the bottom of the pile — constantly. Go talk to your buddy Stevenson and they’ll make sure you get the commander’s signature before lunch.

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They’re also pros at finding BS justifications to send their buddies to schools their unit isn’t even authorized for.

(U.S. Army)

Schools NCO

The recommendations that determine who gets to go to which military school falls on the NCOs at the training meeting, what schools your unit is allotted, and who your commander and Schools NCO feel are the right fit to send.

The commander’s got a million and a half other things to worry outside of scrubbing through a list to determine who’s most suited for Airborne School. The commander, usually, will just nod along whomever the Schools NCO says should go. Get on their good side and they just might bring your name up.

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“Oh god, your paperwork just keeps accidentally falling into the shredder. I’ll look into that.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Finance

Being best buddies with the finance guys isn’t really necessary because they’re not going to help give you a raise or anything since, you know, pay grades and all. They’re mostly just the last people you want to piss off.

Scoff when the POGiest finance Marine says “every Marine is a rifleman” and you’ll somehow find yourself accidentally not paid for the month. If you can’t play nice with them, just avoid them.

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What are bros for, am I right?

(U.S. Army)

Grunts

This is basically the catch-all for all of the combat arms MOS’s out there. Sure, your standard grunt probably can’t slide you anything under the table or go to bat for you with the commander, but earning the friendship and trust of a grunt means way more than any of that.

Grunts have a mentality of brotherhood and they’ll always put their guys above themselves. You need help moving something? The grunts have got spare time for their boy. You need a couch to sleep on for the night? Take their bed, they’re cool on their own couch. Some a**hole gets a bit too close for comfort with you? They’re going to knock out that prick faster than you can blink.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of December 21st

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. After saving up all of those leave days, you can finally enjoy yourself and take some time off to do whatever you’d like. Well, not whatever you’d like; you’ll have to take a piss test the day you come back, so, keep that in mind.

Regardless, you’re finally going to see all of your civilian family and friends! Sure, they’re probably doing the exact same thing as they were when you enlisted. And, yes, even though you’re only in town for a little while, your friends probably won’t want to make the 20-minute drive up to your parent’s place to see you. But hey, maybe you can sleep in and you don’t have to shave for two weeks. So, there’s that.

Anyways. Here’re some memes to help you get through the stress of dealing with everyone on leave.


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(Meme by WATM)

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(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

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(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via 1st Meme Division)

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(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

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(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

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(Meme via Pop Smoke)

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(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

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(Meme via Ranger Up)

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

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